Doctor Who recap: ‘Hell Bent’

6 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Doctor Who finale: 8 things we learned, plus Christmas special pictures and trailer.

The audacious Doctor Who series 9 finale saw Jenna Coleman’s Clara piloting her own TARDIS with Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams into the universe (for a spin-off of their own perhaps).Returning to Gallifrey, the Doctor overthrows Rassilon and the High Council and uses an extraction chamber to retrieve Clara from the trap street, her physical processes time-locked an instant before her death.

There he meets Ashildr, who counters his assertion that she is the Hybrid by suggesting that the combination of him and Clara forms two halves of a half-Time Lord, half-human hybrid, one which puts all of time and space in jeopardy. After a psychedelic, head-spinning finale that piled twist upon revelation on top of rug pull, Steven Moffat could not resist one final question mark that’s likely to keep us guessing until the end of everything. This has been Capaldi’s reality for the past two years, as the 12th Doctor to take on the job of saving the universe from the most inventive and terrifying baddies on television. As Clara imparted the wisdom the Doctor had given her about memories becoming stories, surely knowing he wouldn’t remember, so couldn’t have told her in the Diner Tardis, he tacitly let it go and walked away.

When the pair meet again in a diner in Nevada, he does not recognise her and flies off in his TARDIS alone, while Clara and Ashildr take the stolen TARDIS to head back to Gallifrey – the long way around. But the sight of a new two-woman team of Clara and Me (Maisie Williams), flying off in their very own Tardis meant that the series ended on a joyous, triumphant note.

Was she giving him just enough information to work out that Clara was OK, or had the whole conversation been the final flourish in the pair’s dance, knowing the universe could no longer handle their unique type of Hybrid, and nobly sucking it up? This Australian air steward was pretty upset at what she’d just witnessed in 1984’s Resurrection of the Daleks which featured a rather high death count (even by 80s Doctor Who standards) and decided to stay in London. Sadly, Tegan instantly regretted her choice and fled back to the TARDIS to rejoin her chums – only to find it dematerializing in her front of her eyes. But I also loved it, as Jenna Coleman left the show in fitting fashion, with Clara and the Doctor sharing one last hurrah before the Doctor sidesteps having to say goodbye altogether.

Were Coleman not leaving the show to star as Queen Victoria in a new ITV drama, we would be left with all the right ingredients for a new spin-off series. A visibly trembling woman steps up to the microphone during the Q and A and says, “I’m sorry, I think you’re amazing!” to which Capaldi answers, “I think you’re amazing!” When Capaldi reveals his Doctor’s hypothetical playlist to include the Killers, David Bowie, Arcade Fire and some Frank Sinatra, you’d almost think Bowie himself had snuck onto the stage as well. Capaldi, 57, is on a break now for a couple of months, after completing nine months of filming — a new episode every two weeks — and what sounds like fairly gruelling international promotional duties. “It utterly takes over your life,” he tells the crowd. “I think it’s not entirely healthy living in a wholly Doctor Who world.” Yet Capaldi has famously wanted to be the Doctor since childhood, when he used to watch William Hartnell visit other worlds as the original Doctor. The Time Lord and his companion don’t seem to recognize each other, but there’s a familiarity between them anyway; you don’t accept just anyone’s guitar riffs as currency.

Part western, part poetic contemplation, told with the deft flashbacks that are the writer’s trademark, in the end it was a beautiful character piece and a fitting exit for Clara. This precocious boy genius (read: annoying arse), made one journey with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper after having helped beat off a solitary Dalek. He is living his boyhood dream. “I grew up in the 60s, so we had smog and bronchial disease and it was quite tough,” he joked earlier, in a hotel suite where he was giving interviews. “But in the corner of the living room there would be this flickering black and white image and the music would come on and then these incredible worlds would be evoked and these monsters, and I just loved all that. He plays her a sad song (“I think it’s called Clara”) and starts into the tale of his return to Gallifrey — or, for the uninitiated, Space Glasgow. Their understated and funny final scene was concocted between actress Elisabeth Sladen and Baker, and included the heart-breaking line: ‘Don’t forget me.’

The emotion that he usually kept safely buried under a steely exterior bubbled to the surface and it turned out that the whole four billion-year charade was just a really long tactic to extract Clara from certain death. Back on his home planet after billions of years in the confession dial, the Doctor makes the usual rounds: childhood barn, lunch (with an audience), staredown with a military spacecraft. Like Heaven Sent, Hell Bent is an epic story on a small scale: a tale of a lonely traveller who is willing to risk all of creation because he misses his closest friend, with Gallifrey and the Time Lords merely a bit-part player. In contrast, Moffat says, Capaldi has “the gravitas and intellect to match the oldest man in the universe”. “I love all the new Doctors,” says Capaldi, “but they were becoming increasingly younger and one of their great charms was that they were user friendly.

Moffat’s storytelling choices will no doubt have disappointed many viewers who were hoping for a spectacular Time Lord showdown but I still enjoyed this finale very much – with one noticeable exception. People adore David and adore Matt and I think they’d be very happy to have them come over for dinner and I thought, well, in a show that’s over 50 years old how do you generate any mystery? I thought it might be right, if a little risky, to put some distance between myself and the audience, to try and not be accessible to them and make me a stranger, and more alien. But it is odd to see so many people react to the Doctor as a war hero, especially because even the War Doctor didn’t seem the type to “serve with” the troops so much as go rogue — though he didn’t use a weapon, and that sounds about right. Despite the fact the General regenerates and the Doctor’s glib remark that ‘death is Time Lord for man flu’, this doesn’t change the fact that he murders one of his own kind.

The lighter side of his character comes to the fore in the Doctor Who Christmas Special screening on Boxing Day, which Capaldi describes as a “fun and festive romp”. In it, Alex Kingston returns in the role of his wife, Professor River Song, meeting the Doctor’s new incarnation for the first time and refusing to believe it is him. “I get to see her behaving terribly and flirting with lots of other people, which I object to. That line, “never be cruel, never be cowardly”, originates from a description of the Doctor written way back by veteran Who writer Terrance Dicks, and those words stand as an emblem of everything our hero holds himself to be. Of course, the point of having the Doctor kill the General is to show just how far he will go to save Clara, further than he would go to save anyone else.

We had a really nice time.” Superfans will know that Capaldi appeared on the programme before he became the Doctor, playing a Roman merchant, Caecilius, in Pompeii as Mt Vesuvius is erupting. Later, Capaldi consulted with English designer Paul Smith on what the Doctor should wear (pretty much what Capaldi would wear anyway) and took predecessor Matt Smith to lunch. Moffat did once claim that (perhaps) Orson had simply come from another branch of the Pink family and they were aware of Danny’s time-travelling because Clara had told them. The Doctor and Clara slip past the computer’s guard system — dead Time Lords, Weeping Angels, Cybermen, and Daleks — and get to work trying to hack their way out, or at least the Doctor does.

It sounds tenuous at best but perhaps it’ll have to do for filling this big plot-hole as Moffat has evidently decided not to address it at all in the series itself. And be a Doctor.’ It’s an ending fitting of the character, as Clara races off in search of adventure, not concerned about death but wanting to make the most of her life, knowing that her next heartbeat will be her last. It’s a fabulous role, the Doctor’s companion — but there is that moment where you just have to scream.” Capaldi would like to see the Doctor one day joined by his granddaughter on his travels through space and time, to see the mystery of her origin explained.

Arguably – and bear with me here because it’s about to get rather nerdy – because the Doctor still only had 12 regenerations at that point, there wasn’t much future for her to appear in; the renewal of his regeneration cycle happened at a later point. Now that she’s on borrowed time — Clara’s physical processes have been looped in the split-second before the raven strikes, so she is quite literally a heartbeat away from death — she has a few things to say. But more than that, since Clara was the tempering force that mellowed and humanised him, will the Doctor going forward be more like the grumpy killjoy from last year? The Doctor expects Clara’s pulse to return once they’ve broken free of Gallifrey, but her timeline isn’t changing, and he’s starting to lose his cool. The founder of Time Lord society, he developed the time travel technology along with Omega (who thought just for a minute that we might be getting Omega?), and became the first Lord High President.

We returned to Gallifrey to find Maester Luwin from Game of Thrones (Donald Sumpter) as the chief Time Lord, now referring to himself as Rassilon the Redeemer and Rassilon the Resurrected. As Clara waits inside, Ashildr confronts the Doctor for trying to change his friend’s fate: Not only does he “have no right to change who she was,” but he’s making it pretty clear how destructive they are when they’re together.

Those who did make a return were Ken Bones as the General, who later regenerated into T’Nia Miller, and Clare Higgins as the High Priestess of the Sisterhood of Karn, who spent a large portion of the episode smirking. Given the episode that he wrote in 2014, Robot of Sherwood, was also a series low point, perhaps he’s not as good for this series – unlike his wholly positive contribution to Sherlock – as we all wish he was. But here’s where things take a turn: When everything seems to point toward Clara returning to the moment of her death, the Doctor decides instead that they should both press the button on the neural block and see what happens.

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